By: Jeff Lemire (story), Alberto Ponticelli (pencils), Wayne Faucher (inks), Jose Villarrubia (colors)

The Story: Undead versus the undead—sounds like a nice break for the living to me.

The Review: While this week’s issues of Batgirl and Batman and Robin demonstrated the bigger scale tie-ins to major Events, there are, of course, smaller, less intrusive crossover issues.  With this series, Lemire takes S.H.A.D.E. on an incidental side-mission which intersects with the storyline pulsing along in his other DC ongoing.  Unlike the “Night of the Owls” tie-ins, this mini-crossover has several advantages going for it.

For one, Lemire has a knack for quickly laying out the context of the crossover, so you don’t actually need to read anything else to get the idea of the story.  Through Father Time’s mission brief, he gives you the gist of Animal Man, why the “costumed dweeb” (Time’s words, obviously) even registers on S.H.A.D.E.’s radar, and why it’s important to us.  And as the story goes on, Lemire only further integrates his “Rise of the Rot” plotline within Frankenstein’s own story, making it relevant and contextual.  But then, Lemire has the luxury of writing both.

Besides, S.H.A.D.E.’s nature as a special ops team that focuses on what can only be called “really weird” missions allows it to deviate into any story it wants on the drop of a dime.  You have to keep in mind this is an organization which has a stock contingency plan for undead infestations (“Code six-six-six!”) as a matter of course, so they can pretty much tackle any disaster you can come up with.

As we see in this issue, S.H.A.D.E. very handily deals with the limited Rot infestation they encounter (certainly a heckuva lot better than Animal Man did), although they have to use some fairly spectacular measures to get the job done.  For those of you following the spread of the Rot in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, there’s one point that sticks out: if the Rot only spreads when cut down, how is it that Alec Holland wasn’t just overrun when he did the same thing?  Why does it take a Blackbomb which “atomizes any living thing in its blast range” to eliminate the Rot, but it takes only a plunge from Swamp Thing’s hand-spear to dispatch them?

The use of the Blackbomb, and the fact that it doesn’t affect him at all, also shows something we’ve all known for a long time: Frankenstein is no ordinary golem.  Yet even though he’s made of dead flesh, it’s apparently not dead enough for the Rot to infest him as it does all other things.  He claims to be a “marvel of forbidden science,” but his ability to sense “darkness” seems to have little to do with science.

Frank is even more of an anomaly in that for a product of scientific experimentation, he has a greater affinity with religion than anything else.  He declares with such conviction, “I am God’s holy vengeance made un-flesh.  I am a machine of war sent to protect mankind from the likes of you.  Who am I? I am Frankenstein!”  No shade—heh, heh—on Matt Kindt, upcoming writer to this series, but no one writes Frank’s righteousness as convincingly as Lemire does.

I thought Walden Wong’s inks did good things for Ponticelli’s pencils in previous issues, but Faucher does even better.  He hits that ideal balance between preserving Ponticelli’s fine, sketchy details, but giving them enough definition so you can clearly and cleanly see what’s going on without getting distracted by unnecessary scribbles or hatching.  Hopefully, this will be the series’ standard look in the future.

Conclusion: It takes a special writer to pull off an old-school monster book in the comics industry nowadays.  While it’s sad to see Lemire transfer that talent to Justice League Dark, at least we won’t be deprived of our monthly servings of his work.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Does anyone notice that Nina barely fires her gun once during the whole battle?  Talk about a pencil-pusher.

– But then, we all know she’s just around for monster eye-candy anyway.  I suppose if things didn’t work out with the gun-toting wife, you might as well go for the nerdy-but-cute younger gal.